I really love when people come to visit me. Let alone my parents. The people who get off a plane at Casablanca, then travel approximately 311 kilometers into eucalyptus trees, argan forests, and chaotic roads full of donkeys and little children must really love you. Or just up for an adventure. Coming into my town, it feels like you’ve entered another century. Clocks are set on two different time schedules depending on which you choose to follow, “old time” & “new time”. The afternoon streets are quiet. The wind shares with us through the window an aroma of couscous steam and a pressure cooker about to pop. Kids run around with no parents, off to run errands at the local corner store or just playing who knows what game they’ve come up with in the street. “Amina, Amina!” The girls greet me from the corner doorway they always congregate in to play hand-games. No matter the heat, time of year, or if homework is done, soccer starts at 7pm, right outside my window. The kicks of the ball begin to build. Boys shouts get louder and build in number. This isn’t a “Rec” soccer league with jerseys and parents who brought brownies for after. Its all the boys in my neighboring houses who self-organize pick up every night, same time. My host brother Khalid seems to lead the pack. And don’t feel bad about the brownies, they’ll probably go home to a tagine waiting for them.
Around that time the woman gather in a spot behind their houses, overlooking an open field. I’ll stop by and say hi, ask about their kids and probably be there for 45 minutes. I’ll listen as they chat about who just got married, how roasted chicken was the choice of lunch, and whose cousin of a cousin is probably getting married next week, too. A woman even handed my mom 5 fresh chicken eggs. At first, these times when my community was most active, was my time to be seen, be present, and show I’m interested in engaging. Now, I honestly kind of enjoy the serenity and community-feel of it all. I don’t have to spend 2 hours deciding what outfit to leave the house in or how my hair looks, I can just walk out in my snazzy Moroccan pajamas or the t-shirt I’ve worn every day this week, no one seems to care about that stuff.
Present time: My mom had a letter translated to Arabic thanking my host family for taking care of me for 2 years that Fatima Zahra read out loud. Plus Cholula hot sauce.
When my parents came, I felt like they really had the moments to live how I’ve been living and spend quality time with the people who have been most important to me the last 2 years. They probably sat way too much, were instructed to eat too much, and too much was out of their control. They probably had too much time to get lost in their thoughts, slept in a little too late, and when 50 children are lighting rigged lighters and setting off firecrackers outside your window, I’m sure the thought of ‘Where are the adults?’ popped into their heads. “I don’t know, it’s all good”, I replied, seeming unworried about the whole situation.
When someone comes to visit me from the U.S., the ways in which I’ve changed are highlighted to me, and I’m sure to them as well. I’m not sure if those changes are permanent, for better or for worse, but they’re there. I’m still me, but that me is someone who these days feels more connected to a Moroccan lifestyle and attributes than American ones. Here are some examples:
I mean, this is my Whole Foods.
The pace of my day slowly moves along. Sometimes I’ll get one thing done by 3 o’clock then need to sit for a pot of tea or coffee to “relax”. Can’t wait for NY to bulldoze over this one!
My nonchalant “inshallah, we’ll get there” attitude as we continue on our 1st mile into the forest with no near end to this journey in sight.
When you show up for dinner for a 9 o’clock invite, but are totally fine knowing you’re probably not eating dinner until at least 11:00pm. You’ll drink tea, sit a little, maybe watch an episode of Spacetoon with the kids, then eat. Really, there’s no rush for you to get out. If you fancied, you would even be invited to sleep over.
In these ways and probably more I’ve yet to figure out, I’ve changed. I’m worried of how American lifestyle and cultural norms will accept me. I mean, I used to be someone who was a full-functioning product of it. I moved quick, always thought about what was next, and probably never really interrupted my work day to drink tea with a stranger, without any benefit in it for me. I’m worried people won’t understand the transition I’m going through to re-enter American society. I know close friends & family will be patient with me, but will others? Not just after the 1st or 2nd week, but the 3rd, 4th, 5th? This is where I’m so thankful for my PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer) friends, who will understand a piece of what we went through and lived, that feels so hard to articulate in words to others.
Difficult topics that may follow us back to the States. [Discussed at Close of Service Conference, Rabat, August 2019]
The crew who made it to the end! Staj 99
I’m an American resettling into an American community but as much as I am, I am not. Speaking to an RPCV from Thailand (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) about the whole resettling process, she stated, “As much as we’re American, we’re a fusion of our experiences and those experiences don’t always coincide with American expectations.” And with her statement, from a different country, culture, and experience, I resonate with completely.
Mom & Dad, don’t take this the wrong way, I’m ready to come home for a bit. Take what I’ve learned here and apply those skills to a new setting, be closer and present for friends and family, catch back up on what the f*&k is going on in my country these days, be in an intellectually stimulating environment with those events people do in parks and bars. But home has changed. I used to say I’ll go home after these two years to be around people who understand me, to feel comfortable, but that answer has changed as well. I’m ready to head back not because I’m entering an easier or more familiar culture, but to become in tune to the parts of me that have changed and then I guess I’ll go from there.
Goodbye to the days of a man sitting on the taxi drivers lap as he drives a taxi filled like a sardine can. It’s off to the U.S. now, so seat belts fastened, it’ll be quite the sight.